After less than a month of signature gathering, organizers of the Denton liquor petition are ready to turn their efforts over to city hall on Friday.
Denton First, the group that started the petition drive, reports that they have the signatures required to get their measure on the November ballot; asking for all liquor sales to be opened in the city.
Marcus Watson, group leader and part owner of Dan’s Silver Leaf, said petition officials have collected more than 7,000 signatures from Denton County voters.
The group originally had 60 days to collect about 6,500 names, so Watson is confident they should make the ballot with no problems.
The next step, once the petition is turned over Friday, is for the city secretary to verify those signatures. If that happens, and they do surpass the required threshold, the item will go to the citizens for a vote.
The measure would open liquor sales at both stores and bars in Denton.
Currently the city is considered “moist,” meaning that beer and wine can be sold and mixed drinks are allowed in restaurants.
Bars however still have to operate as “private clubs” in order to sell liquor to patrons. That requires every patron’s ID to be scanned so they can be entered into a database as part of the club.
That’s also the part of the deal that started the push.
Denton First is made up mostly of bar owners within the city looking to do away with that provision.
Watson told NBC 5 in May that the equipment, taxes, and fees required to maintain a private club cost local bars anywhere from $2,000-$20,000 per year.
"It's very, very difficult for small businesses here in Denton having this law in place,” said Kenneth Bearly, manager at Hooligans on the Denton Square.
The group also points to the local tax benefits that would come from liquor sales in the city.
The Denton Chamber of Commerce recently voted to endorse the revision saying access to legal liquor sales would add to the attractiveness of Denton for visitors and increase their profile as a destination location.
Denton First has been working with Texas Petition Strategies to gather the signatures and make sure everything’s done right.
Bearly, who has personally hit the streets to advocate for the rule change, said most people he’s approached have been open or overall positive to the idea.
However, there are folks who point to the possible issues that come with legal liquor and the loss of sales traffic to other areas of the county that benefit from Denton’s moist status.
If the measure reaches the November ballot, it will likely join a measure to ban fracking drilling in the city that is currently working through the city council after a successful petition drive. The council could still enact that ban, however it is expected to go to voters.